Sunday, February 26, 2012

Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside.

         I was always envious of Art Buchwald. He was a columnist for the International Herald Tribune. He wrote his column in Paris for 14 years. What a life!

         Art grew up in Queens, served in the Marine Corps, and went on to U.S.C. His columns were hilarious, but his humor came from a deeper place. He had been a lonely foster child.

         He told writer Maralyn Lois Polak that "I probably am the perfect case for a psychiatrist. Because all these people who are doing things in show business and everything, are people who are trying to make up for unhappy childhoods."

         That's long been a commonly-held belief about celebrities, and I've always wondered how much truth there is in that. "I never let anybody know what was going on", Buchwald said. "Obviously, there was hurt and pain there...I was very much a loner, so I had a lot of time to fantasize."

         Buchwald's story intrigues me because it sounds a lot like my own. I wasn't a foster child, but my childhood was very rocky. It was that "fantasizing" --- somebody once told me I have a rich inner life ---that got me started writing. In elementary school, I wrote and performed marionette shows at the Chicago Public Library on Saturday mornings. In high school, I wrote a musical comedy which raised money for the Red Cross. I created and edited a humor magazine in college. Then my career became writing and directing advertising.

          Who knows, if I had been a happier kid I maybe I'd be an anthropologist or economist today.

          What I'm trying to tell you is that no matter how you got to be creative, a hard childhood or a love for late-night television comedians or just plain hard work, it's a gift. Honor it. Your job now is to nurture your ability, exercise it every day, reinforce it with knowledge, sharpen its edges and let your own humor and humanity shine through.

           When Art Buchwald finally left Paris to do his column from Washington, D.C., he became depressed. And the more depressed he became, the funnier his work became.

            His writing was his child, and he made sure it was happy.


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